Google's Smart, Virtual Wallet...Called "Wallet"
Several weeks ago I was looking into getting “Coin, the one credit card to rule them all.” After weighing the costs and potential risks, especially where financial security was concerned, I opted not to get one, despite the early adopter price being half of what it would be at launch. I was still interested in getting either an application or a card that would minimize my wallet load and would help me better manage my finances. My part-time job uses a payroll card to pay me and the fees associated with it have been ridiculous and only a few banks and ATMs are in the area where I can avoid most of those extra charges.
One day I went to the mall to blow my money on something I shouldn’t have (#SMH) and on the card reader at checkout, I saw that Google Wallet was accepted. I was already familiar with Google Checkout, Google’s answer to PayPal, but not this. I went to download the app in the Google Play Store but unfortunately the “tap to pay” feature was not compatible with my phone. Luckily, the answer to that would be to get a physical Google Wallet card for free. (Although I did need to go through a painless identity verification step.)
The card in and of itself is rather slick in terms of design. It's a white card with a matte feel to it and the Google Wallet logo on the front. On the back is all of the customer information: the card number, customer name, expiry date, security code, signature line, and Mastercard logo. Every time I’ve used it, the respective cashier does a double-take because it looks nothing like a traditional credit or debit card. I will say, though, that it’s no American Express Black Card! It’s maxed out at however much money you load onto it; it's still is an attention-grabber nonetheless!
Google Wallet can be accessed through an application or through its website. It is to be linked to another credit or debit card (transfers are free up to $250 or 2 weeks during the introductory period, whichever is first, and then 2.9% or $0.30 minimum after that) or a bank account (transfers are free). You can use it to withdraw money from a bank (free) and ATMs (mostly free but see the operator’s fine print). Additionally, Google Wallet can be used to send money via Gmail for free and the recipient just needs to confirm their identity in order to receive it. It’s not just for money; Google Wallet can also hold information for loyalty cards and special offers/coupons for online and B&M shopping. Recently, a new feature was added where shipping information and order tracking of your purchases made online via information from your Gmail account will be updated within the app. Also, there are some sites, like Airbnb, that have a “Buy With Google” feature and you can pay them through the application directly. If you get the card (it’s FREE), it can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. The “Tap to Pay” function is not available on all phones nor do all merchants accept that method.
There are some solid security features, including purchase protection, remote disable of the app and/or card, PIN entry every time the app is opened, push notifications, and encryption of the data you supply. I’m not going to lie though, I’m pretty sure Google takes your shopping habits based on your account activity and mines it to share with merchants, as they do with everything else. A small price to pay for such an overall cool method of payment, I suppose! One thing I am skeptical about is FDIC insurance, so I wouldn’t put all of my money into a Google Wallet account. The Google Wallet card itself is a prepaid debit card and technically doesn’t require the law to protect the funds on it via FDIC rules. I will say though, that if ever the system goes down or becomes inaccessible for any given period of time, you may be SOL, so don’t go relying on this service too heavily.
You want to know what’s funny? The concept for Google Wallet started off as what Coin is today. But with the security features and commitments it has to its users, I can say with confidence it works as an appropriate substitute. If you’re one of those people who has a thing about making purchases online (because in 2014, yes, there are still people who won’t shop over the Internet) or if you’re caught up in a relationship with a bank that isn’t exactly 50/50, Google Wallet will work for you as a great intermediary in managing your finances. Between the card and the application, it is a great financial tool for budgeting and spending. It will lessen the weight of your regular wallet and help you make sense of what you have to spend.
So what do you think of Google Wallet? Will you be getting it after reading this review?